Ever since the International Court of Justice’s ruling on 22nd July that Kosovo’s “declaration of independence of the 17th of February 2008 did not violate general international law”, the partially-recognised Republic in the Balkans has sought to gain credibility and take its place on the world stage.
On Tuesday (17th) it receives another massive boost in this respect with the European Commission endorsing Kosovo's bid to join the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which each year pumps millions of Euros into development projects amongst its members.
Addressing journalists after meeting Kosovo's finance minister Ahmet Shala in Brussels, the European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Olli Rehn said that “membership of the EBRD would be a very important step forward following Kosovo's accession last year to the IMF and the World Bank and therefore the European Commission is supportive of this objective.” In response, Mr Shala said "we are very optimistic that Kosovo will reach the necessary votes to be part of this very important institution".
Established in 1991, the London-based investment bank has rapidly become the largest financial investor in Eastern Europe with significant investment injected into projects throughout Western Balkans and even to central Asia. In 2009, it had invested some €47.7 billion of its own capital in 2,835 projects and a total of nearly €150 billion when working together with other public and private co-financiers.
Operating under the mandate that “every EBRD investment must help move a country closer to a full market economy”, the bank is ‘owned’ by its 61 member countries who each own shares as well as two intergovernmental organisations: the European Union and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
With all four of its neighbouring countries (Albania, the FYROM, Serbia and Montenegro) already benefiting from EBRD membership, the attraction of joining is clear for the government in Pristina albeit out of reach.
As of writing, five out of the EU-27 countries and 22 out of the 61 EBRD member countries do not recognise Kosovo as an independent country.
But for Kosovo to be able to join the EBRD, only one of those 22 EBRD non-recognisers would need to change its position as this would secure the 75% vote needed.
So while the coveted membership of the United Nations remains out of the question due to the notable hostility of Russia, which holds the power to veto, Kosovo is not far from making another priceless step towards global recognition and once again enjoy the EBRD financing which it used to receive when it was still part of EBRD-member Serbia.
With that said however, Kosovo did join the IMF, the World Bank and the European Investment Bank in 2009 - all events that the countries’ diplomats used as actual proof of progress towards de jure statehood.
As for the Kosovan Prime Minister Hashim Thaci, he believes the ICJ’s ruling should open the way for more EU and UN members to switch sides and recognise his country. Writing in a comment piece for EUobserver on Monday (16th) he said the ruling was “decisive, and its conclusions were clear: the adoption of our 17 February 2008 declaration did not violate international law; it did not violate United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1244; and, it did not violate the constitutional framework that had been established by the United Nations to guide the interim stabilisation of Kosovo.”
“The opinion affirmed Kosovo's place in the international community, something which 69 countries have already recognised. I call on those states that have not yet done so to recognize Kosovo now,” he said.